Vampyr released yesterday, a new game by DONTNOD, a developer that continues to impress me with their ability to tackle different genres and play styles. To say Vampyr has been on people’s radar is one hell of an understatement, it certainly was on mine. So, is it good, or does it at least have a compelling opening? Time to find out!
So the game opens with images of London with a cryptic voice over, wasting little time on telling you how things came to be and just showing you, which I appreciate. Even the character’s awakening in the middle of a mass grave is perfect, and how the hunger of the newborn vampire bleeds out–all puns intended–sound and colour is a brilliant storytelling decision. You stumble on towards a hapless victim, and though I generally hate forced walking sections, but this one is short, has plenty of dramatic tension and the payoff is genuinely good.
I generally like the tutorial style, how it gradually introduces the mechanics. Anything you don’t know, won’t affect you, with Stamina being the clear example. It only comes into play when you pick up your first melee weapon, and though it’s consumed by running, that doesn’t happen before Vampyr officially introduces you to how the mechanic works, meaning you can sprint to your undead heart’s content before that. While it doesn’t make complete sense in a narrative sense, as a way of compartmentalising the different gameplay elements so you don’t have to deal with all of them, it’s quite good.
The next thing that struck me and which is still fresh in my mind and will probably continue to influence the way I think of Vampyr–in a positive way, mind you–is how much of it seems inspired by White Wolf’s Vampire the Masquerade. The first time the sun burned my good Vampire, the tutorial message popped up for Aggravated Damage, a type of wound that is difficult to heal and reduces your maximum health, quite similar to how that mechanic actually works in the tabletop games and their adaptations. The focus on keeping up appearances, aka the Masquerade, also reminded me of the classic RPG–of which I’m now waiting for the Collector’s box for its upcoming 5th Edition.
I love the idea that the character, as a Vampire, has built-in Psychometry, where he can read past events by touching objects and people and even more, I really think the idea that getting to know people better will make the experience of drinking their blood much more rewarding, how acquiring hints of their stories grants an experience boost when you drink their blood. It’s almost poetic, as if finding these things out and waiting, will make their blood taste so much sweeter. It’s pretty cool. It’s also nice that, as a doctor, your character can gain new insights by healing people’s conditions and afflictions. It’s a great bit of narrative and game mechanics.
If there’s one thing I’m not a fan of so far is that there are clearly two kinds of situations, combat situations and social ones. In combat you can use your supernatural movement abilities, including that sweet, sweet shadow dashing that I will spam until the key of my keyboard breaks. And in the social situations, you don’t even have access to your weapons. I would have preferred something akin to The Witcher, where the switch between schemes happens when you draw or sheath your weapons, which the character can clearly do.
Not that impressed by the Vampiric Skills so far though, there’s some fun stuff, just not that much variety.
But I am enjoying the hell out of Vampyr so far and will continue to play it and will do a Let’s Play ASAP, even if it’s a new game and kinda breaks with my new focus for the videos I record! I may do it along with playthroughs of the classic Vampire the Masquerade games, to make it interesting!